New Book: Thomas Aquinas on the Beatitudes

In MacIntyre’s After Virtue, which was written in 1981, he argued that even though modern thinkers continued to possess a “simulacra of morality” they had actually “very largely, if not entirely” lost the theoretical and practical comprehension of morality. Indeed, Kantian deontologism and Enlightenment philosophy have both done their part to hinder modern man from an appreciation of the role of virtue and teleology. Thankfully, though, as virtue ethics has become more popular and as Thomists have begun to reassert the foundational role the human desire for happiness has in the moral life (by turning, time and again, to the beginning of the Secunda Pars), some of us moderns have found ourselves on the correct path. Nevertheless, despite the relative proliferation of works on the virtues since the time After Virtue was written, there has not been much work done on the beatitudes, which are, for Thomas, “acts of perfect virtue” (see II-II, q. 29 a. 4 ad 1 and q. 79 aa. 1 & 3) that are distinguished from virtues  “not as habit from habit, but as act from habit” (I-II, q. 69 a. 1). It’s good to see that Fr. Anton ten Klooster is taking steps to fill this lacuna.

Click here for more info and ordering info.


Ryan J Brady

Subsequent to a few semesters of study at Thomas Aquinas College, Dr. Brady graduated from La Salle University in Philadelphia with a B.A. in Religion. After receiving a Masters degree in Systematic Theology from Christendom Graduate School (where he was the valedictorian) he defended his doctoral dissertation “Aquinas on the Respective Roles of Prudence and Synderesis vis-à-vis the Ends of the Moral Virtues” with distinction and received his Ph.D. in Systematic Theology.

New Book: General Principles of Sacramental Theology

General Principles of Sacramental Theology addresses a current lacuna in English-language theological literature. Bernard Leeming's highly respected book Principles of Sacramental Theology was published more than sixty years ago. Since that time, there has been a noted decrease, especially in English-language sacramental theology, in treatments of the basic topics and principles—such as the nature of the sacraments of signs, sacramental grace, sacramental character, sacramental causality, sacramental intention, the necessity and number of the sacraments, sacramental matter and form, inter alia—which apply to all of the sacraments.

Rather than deconstruct the Church's tradition, as many recent books on the sacraments do, Roger Nutt offers a vibrant presentation of these principles as a sound foundation for a renewed appreciation of each of the seven sacraments in the Christian life as the divinely willed means of communion and friendship between God and humanity. The sacraments bestow and nourish the personal communion with Jesus Christ that is the true source of human happiness. Recourse to the patrimony of Catholic wisdom, especially St. Thomas Aquinas, can help to highlight the sacraments and their significance within the plan of salvation.

This book will be of use in seminary, graduate, and undergraduate courses. It is further offered as a source of hope to all those seeking deeper intimacy with God amidst the confusion, alienation, and disappointment that accompanies life in a fallen world. The sacraments play an irreplaceable role in pursuing a Universal Call to Holiness that is so central to Vatican II's teaching.

Roger W. Nutt is associate professor of theology at Ave Maria University, Florida

This book will help priests and laity alike to gain a fuller understanding of the worth and power of the sacraments. Prof. Nutt helps to move the conversation about the sacraments forward in a much-needed way in our day.
— Paul Keller, OP, The Athenaeum of Ohio

New Book: Deification According to St. Thomas Aquinas

New Book: Deification According to St. Thomas Aquinas

Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University has recently published Daria Spezzano's masterful work, The Glory of God's Grace: Deification According to St. Thomas Aquinas. It is the first full-length, comprehensive study of St. Thomas's teaching on deification in its scriptural, patristic, philosophical, developmental, and systematic context.

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J. Budziszewski's book on the Treatise on Law

A few months ago J. Budziszewski (University of Texas at Austin) published a line by line commentary on Summa theologiae, I-II, qq. 90-97 with Cambridge University Press entitled (aptly enough) Commentary on Thomas Aquinas's Treatise on Law. I am not aware of another such commentary in English. Here is CUP's description. 

Natural moral law stands at the center of Western ethics and jurisprudence and plays a leading role in interreligious dialogue. Although the greatest source of the classical natural law tradition is Thomas Aquinas' Treatise on Law, the Treatise is notoriously difficult, especially for nonspecialists. J. Budziszewski has made this formidable work luminous. This book - the first classically styled, line by line commentary on the Treatise in centuries - reaches out to philosophers, theologians, social scientists, students, and general readers alike. Budziszewski shows how the Treatise facilitates a dialogue between author and reader. Explaining and expanding upon the text in light of modern philosophical developments, he expounds this work of the great thinker not by diminishing his reasoning, but by amplifying it.

You can find additional material related to the book at  Budziszewski's website The Underground Thomist. Included in the material is a PDF file of a Companion to the Commentary, which features a line by line treatment of selections from qq. 98-108 along with further discussion of topics from various articles across the Treatise. The Companion itself is 239 pages! Budziszewski says that the material in the Companion was not added to the original book because then the entire text would have come out to 800 pages and "a book shouldn't be a concrete block." Well, I would have still bought it. Some of the best books I own are concrete blocks.

People familiar with Budziszewski's work know that he has been writing (and teaching) about natural law, especially Aquinas's version of it, for many years. So, he was well prepared to write this book. It is surprising that he did not write it sooner! At any rate, I think it will prove a valuable resource.

Major Sale on Leonine Edition of the Summa and the Contra Gentiles

Critical Reprints, whom we have posted about before, is having a Black Friday sale. They are offering 30% off their hardbound reprints of the Leonine edition of the Summa Theologiae and the Summa Contra Gentiles. This also includes their very popular reprint of the single volume edition of the Contra Gentiles. The sale is on today through Tuesday, Nov. 27.

Go here for more information on the sale.

By the way, I can say that I am very happy with my copy of vol. 14 of the Leonine edition (Prima Pars, qq. 1-49) that I have from them. Tom Osborne has also expressed his satisfaction with the single volume version of the Contra Gentiles from Critical Reprints.

If you don’t have your own copy of these volumes of the Leonine edition and you don’t like reading it off a computer screen, then you should check them out at Critical Reprints.

Is the Summa Structurally Flawed?

Here are some off the cuff remarks meant to continue the discussion about the structure of the Summa that Dr. Malloy began in his previous post. I believe that he and I are in agreement on this issue. If we’re not, I expect that he will let me know. I would like to say a word about the criticisms of the Summa’s structure that he mentions. I am thinking of the first few lines of his post:

On several counts, Thomas has for some time been criticized for the very structure of the Summa. (1) Christ comes last, “as though an afterthought”. (2) He treats the One God before he treates the Triune God.

It seems to me that in any systematic (or even non-systematic) treatment of the Catholic faith we should permit the order of exposition to be flexible. Authors should be able to make a prudential judgment, based on their purpose and audience, to present the questions as they see fit. Of course, the truth should not be compromised on account of the order or manner of exposition. If there are certain orders of exposition that we can say, a priori, will distort the content, determining exactly what those are will be quite difficult, if not impossible. In any event, the author’s hermeneutic situation should always play an integral part in determining the order of exposition. Does Aquinas not suggest a similar flexibility in his reflections in CG, I, 2 on the appropriate ways to approach discussions with those whom we judge to be in error? Indeed, it is not always a question of dealing with people with whom we disagree. I believe Aquinas shows here that he grasps that how we present Christian doctrine is importantly (if not exclusively) guided by our audience and what we hope to achieve with them. Consider St. Paul’s discourse at the Areopagus. Does he begin by talking about Jesus? In fact, Jesus only comes at the end (as an afterthought?) and there only obliquely. 

Having said all this, we can still debate whether the order of exposition that Aquinas adopts in the Summa compromises Christian teaching. I don’t think it obviously does. If one looks at the whole and how it fits together I don’t believe that it can be said that he sacrifices the Trinity to the one God or that he fails to pay attention to Jesus. Again, whether the trinity of persons should come before a discussion of the divine nature, whether Jesus should come before everything else, these are matters that it is probably impossible to decide in the abstract, or so I would contend.


Post Scriptum: I should add that I am aware that there is a lot of literature on this topic. If I didn’t mention any of it, it is because these remarks are, as I said, off the cuff.

Objections to the Summa's Structure

On several counts, Thomas has for some time been criticized for the very structure of the Summa. (1) Christ comes last, “as though an afterthought”. (2) He treats the One God before he treates the Triune God. The objections are sometimes trivial and sometimes more profound. The profound objections hit their mark when Thomas is read / taught without that moment of synthesis (“so as to unite”). So great is the analytical rigor that we sometimes fail in bringing it all back together, as the Angelic Doctor intended.

Undoubtedly, what follows has been pointed out earlier (I am grateful for any references). Nevertheless, it may be worthwhile to draw attention to the matter here. The structure of the Summa resembles that of the Orthodox Faith by John of Damascus. Obviously, there is this similarity: in Part III John treats Christ. But consider also that John treats the existence, attributes, and unity of God (I, 3-5) before launching into Trinitarian considerations (I, 6ff). Granted, as does the NT, so John will use the term God to stand for the Father (see I, 6). Nonetheless, the treatment in I, 3-5) quite notably concerns the deity as such. In fact, there is an anticipation of this structure already in I, 2: “We … confess that God is without beginning, without end…. and that God is one… and that he is known and has his being in three subsistences” (NPNF, 9).

It is high time to return to the important contemplation of divine unity. And a robust unity it is. As Bruce Marshall indicates (The Thomist, 2010), Trinitarian theology is not worth its salt without it. This consideration brings out the importance both of continuity of NT with the OT and also the importance of Natural Theology.

How to read an article in Aquinas's Summa theologiae

The following post is a re-post from a blog that I once ran. It’s intended for students rather than scholars. I recently received an email from someone who has no philosophical training and is in a non-academic profession but is trying to make some headway in Aquinas. He stumbled across this old post and said that he found it very helpful. So I thought it might be worth re-posting here. I’ve made a few small changes to the original.


One of the things that professors always have to bear in mind is that what is obvious to us is not always obvious to our students, especially undergraduates. The Kantian influence on Hegel is obvious to me. The metaphysics of Platonic “participation” is obvious to me (whether it reflects how things really are is, of course, another question). The differences between Descartes and Aristotle are obvious to me. About such things we philosophy professors would probably just shrug our shoulders and say: “Of course.”

But we easily forget that more often than not undergraduates don’t inhabit the same lifeworld. These things are not obvious to them. That’s why they’re taking the class.

Among the obvious things for many philosophy (and theology) professors is how you read an article in Aquinas’s Summa. We don’t find it at all confusing, or, more precisely, we have forgotten what it is like to be a student, when so many things seem so bewildering. We have forgotten that there was a time when Aquinas wasn’t so obvious to us, or at least when his literary styles were not.

With these thoughts in mind, I thought that for the benefit of anyone who is uncertain about how to read an article in the Summa I would post the text of a handout on this topic that I have given to some of my classes (see below). Aquinas uses more or less the same format in other texts such as the De veritate, the De potentia, and his commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences. There are other of his texts where the format is quite different, the Compendium theologiae for example.

In the handout I also include a fictional “article” that has to do with Armando Galarraga, the former Detroit Tigers pitcher who lost his bid for a perfect game in the Summer of 2010 when umpire Jim Joyce blew a call. I just wanted to have something very short on the handout as an example and decided to make-up my own article. Since I prepared the handout right after the Galarraga incident, it seemed like a good topic. It’s dumb but it serves the purpose.


How to Read an Article in Aquinas’s Summa theologiae

I. Basic Parts of an Article

Aquinas’s “articles” in the Summa theologiae and elsewhere usually have the following structure:

1. Question

2. Objections

3. “On the contrary” (Sed contra)

4. “I respond that” (Respondeo)

5. Replies to the Objections

Below is a made-up article to give you an idea:


Article 1: Did Armando Galarraga get a raw deal?

Objection 1: It would seem that Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga did not get a raw deal when first base umpire Jim Joyce called Jason Donald safe at first and spoiled Galarraga’s bid for a perfect game, for MLB commissioner Bud Selig has argued that human error is a part of baseball.

Objection 2: Further, if anyone got a raw deal it was Jim Joyce because, as Augustine says (De stultitia, II. 3): “It is not he who is misjudged who is despised by the fans but he who misjudges.”

On the contrary, Tigers manager Jim Leyland says: “The players are human, the umpires are human, the managers are human,” which we can take to mean that everyone always gets a raw deal by virtue of being human. Hence, Galarraga got a raw deal because he is a player and all players are human as has been said.

I answer that, “raw deal” can be predicated both of the cause and of the effect. It can be predicated of the cause insofar as the cause is what is said to bring the raw deal about and it can be predicated of the effect insofar as the effect is the recipient of the raw deal. We conclude, then, that as recipient of the raw deal, it is certain that Galarraga got a raw deal.

Reply to Objection 1: While human error may be a part of baseball, this does not prove that Galarraga did not get a raw deal but only that raw deals are a part of baseball.

Reply to Objection 2: There is nothing to prevent he who is misjudged and he who misjudges from both getting raw deals as a result of the misjudgment. Moreover, De stultitia is spuriously attributed to Augustine.

II. Explanation of the Different Parts of the Article


The articles begin with a question about a particular issue. In the above example the question has to do with whether Galarraga was the victim of an injustice.


Before giving his own answer to the question Aquinas presents the answers that others have given or answers that might be given to the question.

On the Contrary (Sed Contra)

Here Aquinas presents another answer that someone has given or that might be given to the question that is in opposition to the answers given in the Objections.

I Answer That (Respondeo)

Now Aquinas offers his own answer to the question. Quite often, but not always, Aquinas will disagree with the views expressed in the Objections. Also quite often Aquinas seems to be in agreement with the “On the contrary” even if he does not respond explicitly to it. However, he does not always completely agree with the “On the contrary.”

Replies to Objections

Here Aquinas responds directly to each of the answers given in the Objections. Often Aquinas does not directly respond to the answer given in the “On the contrary.” In other works, such as the De veritate, Aquinas will include not just one “On the Contrary” but a whole set of Objections to the Contrary after the first set of Objections. In most cases he responds to all of these Objections to the Contrary too.


The above explanation is evidently very basic. If you are interested in a more sophisticated explanation, have a look at Otto Bird, “How to Read an Article of the Summa,” The New Scholasticism 27 (1953): 129-159.

By the way, you may have noticed in my made-up article I mention Augustine’s De stultitia in Objection 2. This also is made-up. As far as I know, Augustine never wrote anything by that title. Also, as far as I know, Augustine never said: “It is not he who is misjudged who is despised by the fans but he who misjudges.” I add this disclaimer only so as not to upset any Augustine scholars.

Leonine Edition of the Summa Theologiae and Contra Gentiles Now Available as Reprints

A new micro-publishing project called Critical Reprints has made vols. 4-16 of the Leonine critical edition of the works of St. Thomas available once more. These volumes include the text of the Summa Theologiae (vols. 4-12), the Contra Gentiles (vols. 13-15), and the indices to both Summae (vol. 16). The volumes can be purchased individually online at the reprint service

Critical Reprints is running a 10% off sale on the Leonine volumes during the Easter season, which I assume means that you can get the discount through Pentecost, which falls on May 27 this year. So, if you are interested, now would seem a good time to make your purchase.

You can find out more about the Leonine volumes and Critical Reprints itself at the project’s website. Here is the Critical Reprints’ “mission statement”:

Critical Reprints is a new endeavor, which aims to make out-of-print editions of scholarly works available at an affordable price. For decades, scholars of philosophy and theology, particularly those concerned with the Middle Ages, have had to search for a library or pay large sums in order to get scholarly editions of the works they study. By reprinting these works through, Critical Reprints aims to alleviate that burden, by making the works widely and inexpensively available.

Critical Reprints differs from other book printing services, because it does not simply feed online books into a printer. Each book is individually prepared for republication; there will not be any blank or missing pages (as sometimes happens with automatic reprints from Google Books, for example), and every effort is made to ensure consistent quality throughout each of the books reprinted.

The goal of Critical Reprints is to be of real service to the scholarly community. If there is something you want to see reprinted, let us know at

Sounds like a noble undertaking. We wish Critical Reprints the best and look forward to seeing what other treasures of the past they place in our hands in the future.